The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) independent Science Advisory Board (SAB) has announced the formation of its Hydraulic Fracturing Research Advisory panel. This panel of independent experts will peer review EPA’s 2014 draft report of results for its national study on any potential health and environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water resources. Leading up to the peer review, the SAB panel will provide scientific feedback on EPA’s research in an open and transparent manner.
The development of the draft report, which is directed by Congress, is in line with the administration’s focus on continuing to expand safe and responsible domestic oil and gas production.
The SAB has identified an independent panel of 31 experts that meet the SAB’s criteria of having the necessary expertise and breadth of experience to adequately review the EPA hydraulic fracturing study on the potential impacts on drinking water resources, and meet long-standing rules regarding financial conflicts of interest.
EPA will ask the SAB panel, as a part of its public process, to specifically seek input from applied science practitioners in the field. Assuring the most up-to-date information on emerging science and technology of this rapidly changing industry is a critical component of the entire process.
In March 2010, EPA announced its intention to conduct the study in response to a request from Congress. To ensure an approach of openness and scientific rigor, the agency has engaged in a wide variety of activities, including public meetings with stakeholders and public webinars, technical roundtables and technical workshops. In addition, the agency’s SAB reviewed the draft study plan and now has established a panel that will peer review the 2014 draft report of results, as well as provide scientific feedback as requested.
“Our final report on the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water resources must be based on sound science and take into account the latest practices being used by the industry,” says Acting Administrator Bob Perciasepe. “We have worked to ensure that the study process be open and transparent throughout, and the SAB panel is another example of our approach of openness and scientific rigor.”
The SAB sought public nominations of nationally and internationally recognized scientists and engineers having experience and expertise related to hydraulic fracturing in an August 2012 Federal Register notice.
The SAB initially identified and sought public comment on 144 potential candidates. As required by the Ethics in Government Act of 1978, SAB staff worked to screen candidates for conflicts of interest and appearance of lack of impartiality. After reviewing public comments, confidential financial disclosure forms and additional information submitted by prospective candidates, the SAB identified the panel of 31 experts.
The SAB panel is comprised of five current employees of companies and consulting firms; two government employees; and 21 academics/university professors (including some previously employed in industry). It has at least three experts in each of the following nine areas of expertise that were sought for the panel: Petroleum/Natural Gas Engineering; Petroleum/Natural Gas Well Drilling; Hydrology/Hydrogeology; Geology /Geophysics; Groundwater Chemistry/Geochemistry; Toxicology/Biology; Statistics; Civil Engineering; and Waste Water and Drinking Water Treatment.
On May 7 and 8, 2013, the SAB panel will convene a meeting to provide individual feedback from panel members regarding EPA’s 2012 progress report on the study. The public will also have the opportunity to provide comments for the panel’s consideration. Comments from individual panel members will be considered as EPA develops its draft results in late 2014 for peer review by the SAB. The draft report of results will synthesize the findings from the study’s ongoing projects together with scientific literature to answer the study’s main research questions regarding hydraulic fracturing and drinking water resources.
Subsequent meetings will include an opportunity for presentations to the panel by experts in fracturing technologies.